March 10, 2016

Genesis 20:7 “Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all yours will die.”

This is one of the strangest stories in the whole Bible. I personally think it shows how little, on some levels at least, Abraham knew of God. It certainly shows that Abraham was not perfect! In the first place, it is a bit shocking to learn that Sarah was Abraham’s half-sister; such a marriage would be illegal today. In the second place, it seems remarkable to say the least that she would have agreed to pass as his sister rather than his wife, since that would open her up to sexual molestation. And then we get to this verse. God certainly came through big time to protect Abraham and Sarah, speaking to Abimelech so clearly in a dream and scaring the wits out of him. That said, it strikes me that God claimed Abraham as His prophet, and said that he would pray for Abimelech. To me this shows that prayer is not dependent on the purity of the one praying, but rather on their relationship with the One to whom they pray. As a Psalmist said very clearly, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” (Psalm 66:18) Unrepented sin blocks our relationship with God, but here Abraham was not even aware he was in the wrong. Rather, he was walking with God the best he knew, and God honored that. The biggest thing about prayer is not who prays or even the words we use, much less our posture at the time, but rather the One to whom we pray. When we know and trust God, our prayers get through, virtually regardless of other factors.

In my desire to teach people to pray I probably err on the side of trying to get them to pray like I do. Why should they, when they are different from me? I need to encourage them simply to pray, because God is One who hears prayer. I have a son in faith who starts every prayer with “Hallelujah.” For him, that is like a battering ram to break down barriers to prayer. I’m not sure I’ve ever done that! The point is to get our eyes off of ourselves and whether we are “worthy” to pray, but rather fix them on Jesus, knowing that, as it says in Revelation, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.” (Revelation 5:12) We don’t pray because we are worthy, but because He is. The better we understand that, the more God will be pleased to treat us as His representatives, just as He did with Abraham, for all of Abraham’s imperfections, and ours.

Father, thank You for having me consider this passage like this. I don’t think I’ve ever done so before, because it just seemed too weird. Help me be open to hear and receive everything You say to me, however off-the-wall it might seem at the time, so that I will grow more and more as Your agent, drawing others into genuine fellowship with You, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!


About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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